The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking for technical and acquisitional aid from partners in refining its database to implement artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, DHS Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) Office CIO David Bottom said today at the AI World Government conference.

Bottom said that technologically, DHS struggling with standardizing the platform to run AI, particularly as it moves to the cloud. He called the cloud the engine behind DHS’s AI capabilities, and the fuel is the agency’s database, which he added is the more difficult technological element to refine in adopting AI and where DHS is seeking aid.

“The challenge is, I think going forward, is that we’re refining the process report for our data,” Bottom said. “We still don’t have it. And I recognize that there’s a lot of different types of data that are out there, various quality levels and provenance and usability for AI purposes. But that’s a problem that we need to tackle.”

The second obstacle in developing AI in DHS, Bottom added, is in the department’s struggle in acquiring quality metadata. He said that while mapping the cost benefits of cloud acquisition area easier, doing so with data acquisition is much more difficult.

“Getting to providence-quality metadata, making it usable for AI and models, is that [not] a harder challenge than transitioning systems to the cloud?” Bottom said. “We pretty much know how to do that. We haven’t figured out the second Part. And we haven’t figured out the model behind that because it’s not necessarily cheaper, so improving a dataset from … working with the components and DHS to make that dataset easier to use, useful, discoverable, is not necessarily something that’s going to get you a lower operating cost.”

Bottom stressed that despite the challenges DHS faces in adopting AI, it has acknowledged the benefits of the technology in the department’s operations. He said that it has the ability to enhance DHS’s counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and counter-intelligence operations, and DHS has mapped out how it would use AI to identify and dismantle transnational organized crime networks.

Furthermore, Bottom added that DHS’s investment in AI will help maintain and grow the U.S. economy.

“What are the right things that we need to do from … an intelligence standpoint, as I&A communicates with policymakers and decision-makers, not only in the department, but across government, about those right policies to put in place to drive economic growth for the country?” he said. “Because that’s the heart of it. That’s what its’ really all about.”

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